In November 2014, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance gave his support to a bill in the New York City Council to make it easier for transgender people born in New York City to change the gender designation on their birth certificates. In a November 25, 2014 letter to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Corey Johnson, Mr. Vance said: “The bill would allow transgender individuals to have their birth certificates reflect their true gender expression – an important aspect of a person’s identity. From a law enforcement perspective, the bill would have no negative impact on the criminal justice system. I therefore support the bill.”
LGBT rights advocates had requested that the District Attorney affirmatively indicate that making gender designation changes to birth certificates more available would not create a problem for law enforcement. In the past, law enforcement has derailed similar reform efforts by raising fears that less restrictive requirements could lead to identity fraud and other criminal justice issues.
In June 2014, New York State eliminated the requirement for gender reassignment surgery for those wishing to change the gender designation on birth certificates. There are financial and medical reasons why the expensive and invasive surgery may not be a viable option for all transgender individuals. But the state law does not apply to New York City.
A bill to reform the New York City law was introduced in the City Council in July 2014. The bill was passed by the City Council on December 8 by a vote of 35 to 5 and was sent to the mayor. It was returned unsigned to the City Council 31 days later and, under City Charter Rules, automatically became law on January 8, 2015, bringing New York City in line with the rest of the state.
California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., also have removed surgery requirements. Advocates hope that, as a national figure in law enforcement, the Manhattan District Attorney’s support of the bill may help persuade lawmakers in other jurisdictions around the country to ease their state and local requirements for gender designation changes.